Promoting Entrepreneurship: Creating Lasting Economic Development in Underserved Communities

Small businesses are critical drivers of our economic recovery. The Clinton Foundation is working to help these small businesses preserve existing jobs, create new ones, and, in the process, empower entire communities.
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Last year Karl Williams, the owner of Society Coffee and 67 Orange Street in Harlem, like many other small business owners, was struggling with high financing costs and flat growth. As a first time restaurateur faced with a difficult economy, Karl turned to the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative (CEO). He enrolled in CEO's Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (EMP), a partnership with Inc. magazine which pairs small business owners with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who serve as mentors. Karl was partnered with Richard Coraine, President of New Business for the Union Square Hospitality Group, the restaurant group that owns establishments like Gramercy Tavern and the Shake Shack.
Working with his mentor and CEO, Karl has restructured his financing, developed a new marketing strategy with the help of Union Square Hospitality Group's marketing team, and even launched a new artisanal coffee business. As a result, he has seen his revenue grow each month since the beginning of the year. Over 50 EMP entrepreneurs in five cities nationwide have been matched with successful business leaders like Richard Coraine, who volunteer to help small business owners in underserved communities succeed and compete in the marketplace.

According to the U.S. government, small businesses like Karl's have historically provided over 50% of all jobs and 64% of all net new jobs. Small businesses are especially crucial in inner-city communities, where they make up 99% of all establishments and 80% of jobs. New small business owners, however, face a tough economic reality: about half of them will fail in the first five years.

At CEO, we recognize that the American Dream -- earning a good living and giving future generations the opportunity to better their lives -- has become harder to achieve. The Clinton Foundation's approach to this challenge is to support small business owners, because we believe that promoting entrepreneurship is one of the strongest ways to create lasting economic development in underserved communities -- because it creates jobs, promotes development and generates wealth in those communities. While our mentoring program matches local entrepreneurs with successful mentors, CEO's Consulting Program, a partnership with Booz & Company and NYU Stern School of Business, provides pro bono consulting services directly to small business owners. Since 2002, the consulting program has provided more than 72,000 hours of consulting services worth more than $15 million to support entrepreneurs in New York City.

CEO's approach to supporting entrepreneurs involves promoting public service from private sector players. But CEO is also involved in creating new partnerships with other like-minded not-for-profits in order to reach more business owners with better tools and resources. This past week we were excited to announce a new partnership with Seedco Financial Services, a not-for-profit Community Development Financial Institution that provides affordable financing and business assistance to organizations in low-to-moderate income and underserved communities. Seedco Financial's unique Growth Opportunity Loans and Services Program (GOLS), which blends financing with high-level business assistance, consists of a $20 million fund to provide loans to small business owners located in low-to-moderate income communities throughout New York City. Through our strategic partnership with Seedco Financial, up to twenty small business owners will receive: strategic assessments from Booz & Company and NYU MBA students through CEO's Consulting Program, a loan of up to $750,000 from Seedco Financial, an EMP mentor, and access to a network of professional service providers through GOLS.

CEO's partnership with Seedco Financial is an economic empowerment model that works cooperatively to promote economic opportunity in underserved communities by bringing together the best practices from each organization's work. We believe that the partnership of our respective programs will provide small businesses with the full set of tools and resources they need to grow their businesses.

Small businesses are critical drivers of our economic recovery. They are the ones hiring a majority of people across the United States. Together, the Clinton Foundation with partners like Seedco Financial, Booz & Company, and Inc. magazine are working to help these small businesses preserve existing jobs, create new ones, and, in the process, empower entire communities.

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